* Represents mandatory fields
By Ibironke Taiwo. Datelinehealth Africa Volunteer Freelance Writer, with medical review and editorial support from The DLHA Team
Core body temperature is determined in units of measurement referred to as degree Centigrade/Celsius (°C) or Fahrenheit (°F). It is kept within a normal range from 36.1°C to 37.2°C (97°F to 99°F) by complex physiological processes in the body.
Fever or pyrexia occurs whenever the body temperature is higher than the upper limit of normal.
The rise in the body's core temperature that is associated with fever is usually due to the release of inflammatory products called pyrogens from infectious or non-infectious sources that trigger the temperature regulating centers in the brain.
Human normal temperature varies throughout the day by 0.5 degree Celsius due to normal physiological activities in the human body such as the chemical process that maintain life (metabolism), the sleep and wake cycles, daily activities, etc. In the case of fever, the increase in temperature is often greater than 0.5 degrees Celsius.
Fever can be categorised on how severe it is, and includes
Fever can also be classified into five main types based on how long it lasts and how high the temperature gets. For example:
This kind of fever comes with an inconsistency or fluctuation in the body temperature from normal to extreme (fever level) over the day.
This type of fever also comes with temperature fluctuation but in this case, the temperature follows an on-and-off pattern, when the temperature falls it still doesn't get to the normal temperature.
The rise of temperature or the on-and-off pattern of temperature is said to be hectic when the temperature range changes widely throughout the day, with a difference of 1.4°c between the highest and lowest temperatures. It is often associated with chills and sweats.
This is also known as sustained fever. It continues with little or no change in the body temperature throughout the day.
This is the kind of temperature that is most experienced from animal bites and diseases like malaria. It is characterized by a rise in temperature after days or weeks of normal temperatures.
Globally as in African countries the burden of febrile illness has been difficult to quantify but it is clear that fever is a common symptom and may be a major associate of severe illness and even death.
Although fever has been identified as a common symptom of malaria, many other non-malaria infectious diseases like respiratory and urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal infections, and meningitis are also common causes of fever in sub-Saharan Africa.
The cause of fever can also be due to non-infectious causes like autoimmune disorders, drug reactions, heatstroke, and other systemic inflammatory conditions.
The occurrence of fever depends on age, having other underlying conditions, being hospitalized, or being able to move about.
Over the years the diagnosis and management of fever has been a challenging one in most of sub-Saharan Africa due to certain conditions present in the region like the common presentation of the various causes of fever and lack of diagnostic tests. Notwithstanding, having clarity about the epidemiology of the causes of fever helps patients and caregivers manage febrile illnesses better.
Fever can be caused by various factors which include:
If you suffer from underlying chronic health conditions, you are at risk of fever, especially low-grade fever.
The following is a list of common health conditions that are associated with fever in children.
The symptoms of fever vary depending on the cause of the fever, they include.
Fever is diagnosed following clinical evaluation by a healthcare provider after:
Fever can go from unconcerning to being severe if immediate medical intervention is not carried out. When fever gets to the severe stage in a child it puts the child at risk of developing health complications, brain damage, coma, or even death. Therefore there is a need for prompt and effective treatment.
The treatment of fever varies, depending on the cause of the fever.
The challenges in the treatment of fever in African children are mostly attributed to a lack of proper diagnosis.
Below are some of the key challenges faced in the treatment of fever in African children.
The cultural beliefs and practices of people in certain parts of African countries influence how they seek medical care, as a great number of parents would rather receive care from traditional healers or give home remedies before or alongside formal medical care and this can lead to delays in appropriate treatment.
The lack of access to healthcare facilities in certain parts of Africa especially the rural areas contributes greatly to the delay in diagnosis and treatment of fever in African children.
The low availability of diagnostic resources like laboratory tests make it difficult to determine the exact cause of fever and guide appropriate treatment.
Certain socioeconomic factors like poverty, low educational status, lack of access to clean water, and a clean environment contribute to the challenges faced in managing fever in African children as these socioeconomic factors increase the risk of infections and make effective treatment and implementation of prevention strategies pretty difficult.
Inappropriate feeding habits, malnutrition, and other associated health conditions make African children more susceptible to infections.
Rampant infectious disease also contribute to the challenge of managing fever in African children as these infections present with similar symptoms thereby making it difficult to differentiate and treat them effectively.
Resistance to antibiotics is also a major challenge in combating fever in African children leading to an increase in treatment failure.
The best way to prevent fever in African children is to limit exposure to infectious agents, the reason being that these Infectious agents are leading causes of the rise in body temperature.
The following are some prevention tips:
To check your child's temperature at home, a thermometer is used and it is advisable to use a digital thermometer for easy reading.
You can obtain your child's temperature from different parts of the body which are:
Fever in children becomes a concern when:
This may be a useful screening tool to discover if a child has fever. Be mindful however that some children feel warm even when they have a normal body temperature. If you suspect that a fever is present, it is best to take your child’s temperature with a digital thermometer to verify the fever and take note of the number.
Here are ways to reduce your child's fever at home.
(i) Ensure your child drinks plenty of fluids like water, diluted juice, etc.
(ii) Get them to take a rest until the fever goes down and the temperature is normal.
(iii) Warm bath or tepid sponge by placing wet flannels on the child's forehead.
(iv) The use of Over-The-Counter fever relieving medications like acetaminophen at a dose that is appropriate for the age of the child.
(v) Dress or cover the child with light clothing
If these home remedies do not work after several hours to reduce your child's fever, please get your child to the hospital or a doctor’s clinic.
The following are common consequences of fever in children:
Fever also known as pyrexia is an increase in the body's core temperature above its normal range of 36.1°C to 37.2°C (97°F to 99°F). There are different types of fever depending on severity and characteristics.
The major cause of fever is infection which makes prevention of infectious agent the best way to reduce or manage fever and this is done by washing hands before and after eating, after visiting the toilet, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, etc.
Children having underlying health conditions are at risk of having fever.
Being warm to the touch, dehydration, shivering, loss of appetite, fatigue, irritability and or loss of interest in daily activities etc., are some of the significant symptoms that help to indicate that your child has a fever.
Fever is treated in various ways depending on the cause. Some of these include the use of common over-the-counter fever reducing drugs, bed rest, drinking lots of fluids, taking warm baths and the use of antibiotics.
As much as health care professionals are trying to curb the burden of fever, there are still many regions in sub-Saharan African where there are lots of challenges in the management of fever. Some of the challenges include socioeconomic factor like poverty, lack of access to clean water, as well as lack of facilities for diagnosis, certain cultural practices and beliefs and resistance of these children to antibiotics
1. Bali S, Shumway KR and Sharan S.: Pathophysiology. Fever. StartPearls. .[Internet]. Sept. 11 2022. National Center for Biotechnology Information, Bethesda, MD) USA. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562334/. Accessed Sept. 8, 2023.
3. Maze MJ, Bassat Q, Feasey NA, Mandomando I, Musicha P, Crump JA. The epidemiology of febrile illness in sub-Saharan Africa: implications for diagnosis and management. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2018 Aug;24(8):808-814. doi: 10.1016/j.cmi.2018.02.011.
4. Coalson JE, Cohee LM, Walldorf JA, Bauleni A, Mathanga DP, Taylor TE, Wilson ML, Laufer MK. Challenges in Treatment for Fever among School-Age Children and Adults in Malawi. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2019 Feb;100(2):287-295. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.18-0687.
5. Fever in children: An Overview. [Internet. Last updated June 6 2019]. InformedHealth.org. Natinal Library of Medcine. National Center for Biotechnology Information, Bethesda, MD, USA. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279455/. Accessed Sept. 8, 2023.
Published: September 19, 2023
© 2023. Datelinehealth Africa Inc. All rights reserved.
Permission is given to copy, use and share content without alteration or modification and subject to attribution as to source.
DATELINEHEALTH AFRICA INC., is a digital publisher for informational and educational purposes and does not offer personal medical care and advice. If you have a medical problem needing routine or emergency attention, call your doctor or local emergency services immediately, or visit the nearest emergency room or the nearest hospital. You should consult your professional healthcare provider before starting any nutrition, diet, exercise, fitness, medical or wellness program mentioned or referenced in the DatelinehealthAfrica website. Click here for more disclaimer notice.